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IEPA among parties involved in chemical fire cleanup

Published: Friday, July 23, 2010 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – Cleaning up a chemical fire that broke out in a tank Wednesday at Right Pointe Company will be long, complex and expensive, the chief of the DeKalb Fire Department said Thursday.

Fire personnel have been on the scene of the manufacturing plant at 234 Harvestore Drive since they were called to the scene about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Fire Chief Bruce Harrison said. He expected his crews to leave Thursday evening.

They have been joined by other parties, including the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, a fire investigator from the insurance company, corporate owners and a private contractor hired by the company who specializes in hazardous waste.

"Any time you're dealing with hazardous materials it's highly regulated and it's a very slow process," Harrison said.

IEPA staff was at the plant Thursday to confirm plans for the cleanup and transportation of the hazardous chemicals off the site. Large vacuum trucks sucked up water that was within the brick walls that surround a series of tanks, including the tank holding a mixture of asphalt, used oil and mineral spirits that caught fire.

After the water is removed, the IEPA will do a soil sample and if it's contaminated, they may order the soil to be removed, Harrison said.

City workers from the water department were also at the site because a city well is in the vicinity. Harrison did not know how close the well is to the scene, but said he doesn't believe it poses an "imminent threat" to the water supply. A message left Thursday afternoon with the water department was not immediately returned.

Neither the contaminated water nor the hazardous materials have left the boundaries of the company's property, largely due to the retention pond and the "big, big effort by all these partners," Harrison said. About two dozen fire departments responded and controlled the fire from spreading.

Right Pointe went back to doing limited production Thursday, and the injured worker who was treated for burns at Kishwaukee Community Hospital has been released, he said.

"Progress has been made," Harrison said. "Even as work progressed today, things are in much better shape than this morning."

Though the DeKalb Fire Department has ended its hazardous materials response and handed it over to the IEPA, the department will continue to be involved in the aftermath, Harrison said. The cause still needs to be determined, along with the amount of damage.

Harrison said it would take time before those determinations are made.

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